In The Know: Oklahoma depends heavily on federal funds

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today you should know that KJRH examined how Oklahoma depends on federal funds to educate our poorest children and perform other important state services. Governor Fallin is looking for ways to reduce the number of uninsured Oklahomans, but without joining the Medicaid expansion her options are limited. The OK Policy Blog examined how medical debt is eroding Oklahomans’ financial security.

Incoming House Speaker T.W. Shannon said Oklahoma needs to be more committed to improving its standards of education, and he stressed merit pay for teachers. The University of Central Oklahoma and the University of Oklahoma are partnering to respond to the urban teacher shortage. An Oklahoma lawmaker called for allowing teachers and principals to bring guns to school. The okeducationtruths blog argued that this is a bad idea.

The Oklahoma Historical Society is continuing to seek funding from the Legislature for an OK Pop Museum in Tulsa. The Number of the Day is the gross production tax revenue to the General Revenue fund in November. In today’s Policy Note, the Death Penalty Information Center finds that executions are at their lowest level in 20 years, with Oklahoma, Texas, Mississippi, and Arizona together responsible for more than three-quarters of executions nationwide.

In The News

Oklahoma depends heavily on federal funds

Teacher Tracy Murdock may work in a Tulsa public school where many students face poverty, but she says teaching enriches her life. Sometimes getting students up to speed means getting a little extra help. “Individualized and small group attention is all these kids need to supplement, get them back up to level and just additional personnel, (para-professionals) and (teachers assistants),” she said. And federal funds make that possible. TPS alone receives $54 million a year from the feds, and it mostly goes to schools where many children live in poverty. So losing the money, “It would be a devastating impact,” said Dr. Keith Ballard, superintendent of Tulsa Public Schools. But it’s a scenario that lawmakers are playing out as a precaution.

Read more from KJRH.

Fallin looks at options to reduce uninsured

Gov. Mary Fallin wants an Oklahoma solution to reducing the number of uninsured Oklahomans, but it’s unclear what options the state has available. Look for Fallin to outline principles for an “Oklahoma option” to deal with the issue, possibly including an expansion of the Insure Oklahoma plan in the coming months. Other elements of that plan could include a new design to give doctors and hospitals incentives for healthy outcomes instead of the traditional fee-for-service format, and financial incentive to push patients to invest in their own health, state Health Commissioner Terry Cline said. But with key elements of a program already ruled out by federal health officials, Fallin’s options seem limited.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

How medical debt erodes Oklahomans’ financial security

Medical debt is money owed for medical goods or services, like doctor’s visits, lab fees, or hospital stays. One survey of low-income households in eight states, including Oklahoma, found that 46 percent of low-income households carried medical debt. National survey research has found that 41 percent of adults of all income levels have either accumulated medical debt, or had difficulty paying medical bills in full. Medical bills burden too many Oklahoma households with financial insecurity, debt collections that damage credit history, and bankruptcy.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog.

House speaker discusses education

Oklahoma needs to be more committed to improving its standards of education, said Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives Elect T. W. Shannon, R-Lawton. Twenty-four percent of Americans have a college education, a figure that drops to 19 percent of Oklahomans, Shannon said. College graduates in southwestern Oklahoma number 16.7 percent, Shannon said. “Clearly, there’s a direct connection between the number of graduates you have and per capita income,” Shannon said at a recent gathering of the Edmond Area Chamber of Commerce Government Relations Council. Not everybody should focus on a college degree, Shannon said. The Career-Tech system offers productive jobs as well, he said.

Read more from The Edmond Sun.

UCO, OU partner to stem urban teacher shortage

Across Oklahoma enrollment numbers in Colleges of Education are showing alarming drops, with fewer students choosing education as a career path. Even fewer are answering the call to teach in an urban school district, which provides unique environments and challenges. However, the University of Central Oklahoma and the University of Oklahoma are partnering together to respond to the urban teacher shortage by expanding the Urban Teacher Preparation Academy. The only program of its type in the state, the UTPA is an innovative program that works in close partnership with Oklahoma City Public Schools to place upper-level education majors in schools throughout the district for three years of mentored clinical teaching experience.

Read more from The Edmond Sun.

Oklahoma legislator says teachers need option to carry guns at school

In the wake of the mass killing of children at a Connecticut elementary school last week, an Oklahoma lawmaker said Monday teachers and principals should have the option of bringing guns to school. McCullough pledged to introduce legislation in the upcoming session to allow principals and teachers who go through training to be able to carry firearms on school property. Several educators said Monday they aren’t interested. I could not be in more opposition to that idea,” Sapulpa Superintendent Kevin Burr said. “Schools are not a place where we should be arming combatants. … “Our job as educators is to try to create an educational environment and try to teach students how to love one another and try to get along with one another so these kinds of tragedies that occurred in Connecticut never happen again. That’s our job. Our job’s not to try to kill an intruder.”

Read more from NewsOK.

okeducationtruths: Guns at school a bad idea

The thought of teachers and principals packing heat at school scares me. People owning guns because they like to hunt, participate in shooting competitions, or feel the need to protect their homes – that’s all fine. But guns at schools? I just can’t accept that. Nonetheless, it’s an idea that will probably get serious consideration during the next legislative session. I imagine it will be discussed more than school funding, in fact. In the last 24 hours, I’ve talked with some teachers, administrators, parents, and students. I talked to people I know, so this was – to say the least – a sample of convenience. The vast majority of people I discussed this proposal with were against it.

Read more from okeducationtruths.

Funding sought for Tulsa pop museum

The basement of the Oklahoma History Center is packed floor-to-ceiling with artifacts waiting for the space to tell their story to the public, says Bob Blackburn, executive director of the Oklahoma Historical Society. But that space — a proposed $42.5 million museum of popular culture in Tulsa — depends on funding approval from the Oklahoma Legislature this session, something that has proved elusive for the project to date. Last session, the Senate approved a $20 million bond issue to fund the OK Pop Museum in Tulsa, but the House never considered the bill. Sen. Patrick Anderson, who opposed the Pops Museum funding, said he would be much more likely to support projects like the restoration of the Capitol building or the medical examiner’s office.

Read more from NewsOK.

Quote of the Day

I don’t think he probably really understands how schools operate. Schools can be emotional places at times. Kids can get emotional. Teachers can get emotional. Parents come in emotional. Throw weapons into that mix, and it can be dangerous.

Ed Allen, president of the Oklahoma City American Federation of Teachers, on a proposal by Rep. Mark McCullough, R-Sapulpa, to allow teachers and principals to bring guns to school.

Number of the Day


Gross production tax revenue to the General Revenue fund in November due to low gas prices and growing tax credits for horizontal and deep well drilling.

Source: Oklahoma Policy Institute

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Oklahoma and three other states accounted for three-fourths of executions nationwide

On December 18, the Death Penalty Information Center released its latest report, “The Death Penalty in 2012: Year End Report,” on developments in capital punishment in the past year. The report noted the number of new death sentences in 2012 was the second lowest since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976, representing a nearly 75% decline since 1996, when there were 315 new death sentences. Only nine states carried out executions in 2012, equaling the fewest number of states to do so in 20 years. In 2012, use of the death penalty was clustered in a few states. Just four states (Texas, Oklahoma, Mississippi, and Arizona) were responsible for over three-quarters of executions nationwide.

Read more from the Death Penalty Information Center.

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Gene Perry worked for OK Policy from 2011 to 2019. He is a native Oklahoman and a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a B.A. in history and an M.A. in journalism.

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